The gut, whose real name is almost as long as it is (the gastrointestinal tract), starts at the mouth and runs all the way through your body, ending at the anus. This incredibly clever system is responsible for processing everything we eat and allowing essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals to be absorbed, providing the fuel for our bodies. Any food that cannot be digested is passed out as waste and is what we know as poo!
Most of the time our gut works very well, but it is important to note that everyone is different. As researchers learn, the more they understand that the bacteria profile in our gut is almost as unique to each person as their fingerprint. Because of this individuality, it’s important you know your gut and how it normally behaves, as this knowledge could save your life.
Bowel Cancer statistics in New Zealand are among the highest in the world and it’s time we put some effort into changing this. Bowel cancer used to be thought of as an older persons’ disease but this has changed and many more younger people are dying of bowel cancer.
Knowing your gut is partly about ‘Knowing your normal!’ What is meant by that? This is ensuring that you know your gut and how it normally responds to food. Our poo habits are not something we like to study or talk about, but a few minutes every day could save your life. The thing you need to watch for in your poo is change. To understand change in your poo you need to know what is normal for you.
Frequency and change – what is your normal? Do you poo every day, every second day, or twice a day? Get to know what your frequency is. Texture and change – what is your normal? Is the shape and consistency of your poo like a sausage, small balls, lumpy and sausage-like or something else?
Colour and change – what is your normal? If brown is coming down, there is no need to frown. If you notice changes in colour such as red (blood in your poo) or black or grey, make a time to visit your doctor.
‘Knowing your normal’ takes time. Normal is not the same for each person. Your normal is individual to you. The Gut Foundation has a chart on its website that you can download and complete over a month. This will give you an indication of your normal. Always check after using the toilet. Other symptoms of bowel cancer are abdominal pain, acute tiredness and/or a lump in your tummy.
Currently the Gut Foundation is funding some research into the role of the gut microbiome (bacteria) in the development of precancerous colorectal lesions (polyps). The hope is that this study will allow the organisation’s researchers to develop early stage markers of the disease.
Support this project by donating online at www.thegut.org.nz, tagging your donation ‘CRCFF’.